Wolfgang NEUBAUER1 / Christoph TRAXLER2

(1VIAS – Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science / 2Vienna University of Technology, Austria)

Goal of Presentation: Introduction of the new Harris Matrix Composer, an application that supports the creation and administration of a Harris Matrix according to the theory of Dr. E.C. Harris.

The Harris Matrix – formulated by Dr. Edward C. Harris in 1973 – is the established way of representing the archaeological stratigraphy of an excavation. The Harris Matrix is a sequential diagram defining stratigraphic relations between stratigraphic units. It is an important method to document the stratification that is destroyed by the excavation process and hence a vital tool for stratigraphic analysis.
Although the Harris Matrix has become a quasi standard of archaeological stratigraphy, only a few software tools exist to create and edit these diagrams. An evaluation of these tools showed that they do not completely comply with the theory or suffer from poor usability.
Therefore we decided to develop a new application addressing these issues, called Harris Matrix Composer (HMC). Dr. Harris was involved in the evaluation of early prototypes to guarantee compliance with his theory. User tests were undertaken to discover and handle usability problems.
The main component of the HMC is a graph editor with an intuitive graphical user interface for creating and editing a Harris Matrix throughout the entire stratigraphic excavation process. Users add graphical symbols that represent stratigraphic units (either deposits or surfaces) and determine their stratigraphic relations by drawing edges between two such symbols. The application supports valid Harris Matrix creation and indicates invalid units and relations. In addition to stratigraphic relations, temporal relations can be added by drawing special edges or grouping units into periods. Phases define structural relations, like posts or postholes of a dwelling.
The HMC will be developed into a powerful interface to a GIS system, like ArcGIS to access single surface maps and related databases for visualization and stratigraphic analysis by selecting units of the Harris Matrix. In a similar way it will work together with the point cloud editor SCANOPY to filter these vast data sets.
A trial beta version and further information is available at the web site: www.harrismatrixcomposer.com

Keywords: Harris Matrix, Archaeological Stratigraphy, Excavation Management and Analysis